Wood if they could

Pomona doll toys from VADS image

I found another nice image on the VADS site.  It’s a great site, that. Eminently surfable. This here image follows my recurring blog theme of toys.  I’ve long since given up wondering why I like images of toys so much.  I’m sure Freud and the other over-thinkers would have a theory on it, though.

These two wooden dolls, pushing their rather over-sized cart and working their rather chic wardrobes, are Pomona toys. The image comes from a Red Rose Guild catalogue of 1935. I recognised the context immediately. The guild’s name appears a lot if you are researching women designers in the 1930s.  A bit like an artistic arm of the Women’s Institute, they held craft exhibitions in halls up and down country. Their work sort of fed in to the crafts movement we have today.

Pomona dolls and toys seem to have been formed at some point in the nine-teens. Producing earthenware art dolls then wooden toys by the 1920s. For the British Industries Fair of 1929 they displayed: ‘Well-designed small birds and animals. Noah’s Arks, Merry-go-Rounds, Hobby Horses, Monkeys-up-Sticks, Coster Carts; Dolls in Composition and Wood. Dolls’ Furniture.’

Pomona opened a toy shop and dolls hospital at 64 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea around 1924. I can only imagine what a nice shop that must have been.

I have a soft spot for doll’s hospitals. I read the Twinkle comic when I was young. Bought from the ‘hole-in-the-road‘ newsagent in Sheffield. I went there each Sunday morning with my dad, who’d be getting his copy of Motorsport and a small tin of cigars. My favourite Twinkle strip was ‘Nurse Nancy’ who ran a toy hospital. Hmm..perhaps that explains things?

I’d really like to see the aforementioned ‘well-designed’ birds and animals that Pomona made. But I could only find pictures of a nice, checked-apron doll and a Merry-go-round which lived with the slightly awesome, Gertrude Jekyll-gardened, Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House.

16 Comments

Michele

Thank you for that info about Pomona dolls. I recently bought a little beauty.. a Pomona ballerina doll.
The photograph reminds me so sharply of The Woodentops.. one of my all time favourite childhood programmes.

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shelf appeal

Thanks, it is rather Woodentopish isn’t it? Have you blogged your Pomona doll yet?

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simon

The dolls are also very like the Galt style wooden ones you had as a kid…
I always wondered if they ever took the fish out of that giant tank, or simply filled in the subway. Maybe they’re still swimming around down there.
Re: doll’s hospitals, there was one of these still there in Manchester when I was at college in the 70s, just opposite the roadway up to Piccadilly station. Very strange place it was, wish I’d taken some pictures. Simon

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Rebecca

Hello, I’m researching an article about Pomona dolls etc for the Dolls Houses Past and Present website, which I see you found (the doll with the checked apron). So I was delighted to find your blogpost with this wonderful photo – which I hadn’t found in my other searches!
I’m very interested that you say Pomona produced earthenware art dolls. I haven’t come across a mention of them either, and I’d love to know where you’ve found that! The earliest mention I’ve found so far is 1917, although the two women who started it exhibited toys in 1915 and 1917.
Look forward to seeing more of your blog, and your flickr photos!

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shelf appeal

I’ll email you the link I found to the earlier dolls, I think it was an auction site but must be the same company. Too much of a coincidence otherwise. I found the website you are researching for and sent them a link to my blog too. 🙂 I look forward to seeing your piece. I’d love one of the dolls myself…

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Rebecca

Hi Jane, Thanks! I found the site by searching for Pomona art dolls auction – just needed the right combination of words! Yes, it’s definitely the same company. Much bigger than their dolls house dolls, but nice to see some of their other range too. I wonder if the archives with the Red Rose Guild papers might have something on Pomona, too.

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shelf appeal

Ahh glad you found them. Hadn’t had time to find the link yet. The Guild archive might have something,a leaflet or two perhaps? Hope you find something more as it’s got to be an interesting story.

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francesca

oh i think i had a twinkle annual with a doll’s hospital strip. it’s all coming back to me now. lovely blog, thanks for stopping by mine. and happy new year!

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Anne

I’ve have bought some ‘ well designed’ birds recently. Lovely items with articulated wings & also some animals . I have been trying to find out more about them ,

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